14-year-old Autumn Peltier chosen UOI’s new Water Commissioner

The late Josephine Mandamin’s legacy and work is being continued by her great niece Autumn Peltier.

Succeeds her late aunt Josephine Mandamin

NORTH BAY – Autumn Peltier, the 14-year-old water warrior from Wiikwemkoong, has been appointed the Anishinabek Nation chief water commissioner. Autumn is following closely in the footsteps of her mentor and great aunt the late Josephine Mandamin.

“I am just going to keep on doing what I have been doing,” said Autumn when contacted after the news of her appointment broke. “I will be carrying on my auntie’s role.”

Autumn Peltier will be fully inducted into her new role when she is honoured at the Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Assembly in June, to be held on the territory of the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation. That assembly’s theme is “Mndaadendang Nibi Ekeanjigewat (Honouring our Water Protectors)” and will also give thanks to the previous Anishinabek Nation chief water commissioner, the late Josephine Mandamin.

“Autumn has extensive nibi giikendaaswin (water knowledge),” said Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Glen Hare. “She has been bringing global attention to the water issues in our country for a few years now. It is an honour to have her be our next chief water commissioner.”

“It is exciting to know that Autumn is getting the recognition, not only from the Anishinaabe and the province, but internationally across all of the Great Lakes,” said Wiikwemkoong Ogimaa Duke Peltier. “Autumn has been taking on the role of our nokomis Josephine (Mandamin) and our community has been offering its support for her for a number of years. The appointment as water commissioner is a natural progression for her and very a very appropriate role given her passion for protecting the water.”

Autumn is no stranger to the national and international stage, having addressed both the leadership of Canada and the United Nations General Assembly over the past couple of years. She has not stood on her laurels in the interim either.

“We met last week with the Minister of the Environment, the Honorable Rod Phillips, it was my first meeting as water commissioner,” said Autumn. “He was full of interest, I liked him.” Autumn was also introduced to the president of Ryerson University.

The Anishinabek Women’s Water Commission was established in 2007 with a mandate to provide advice to the Anishinabek Nation’s leadership and citizens on water and Great Lakes management issues through dialogue and information exchange. The commission plays a leadership role in raising awareness on all water issues, sharing their traditional knowledge, teachings and values.

Autumn’s mother is very proud of her daughter and the work she has been doing, but she admitted to a little trepidation when she first heard that Autumn would be offered the role.

“As a parent I am very proud of my daughter, but I was starting to feel a bit overwhelmed,” she said, particularly as Autumn is in her first year of high school. “(Anishinaabek Nation Grand Council Chief) Glen Hare said he was told by our Ogimaa Duke Peltier to call me,” recalled Ms. Peltier. “He told me ‘we realize she is only in Grade 9 and we are not going to put a lot of demands on her’.” Autumn’s schooling must remain front and centre.

But the experience that Autumn is getting sitting at the table with ministers and world leaders will be an education in and of itself, noted her mother. “Part of it too is goals related to what she is doing,” said Ms. Peltier. “When she was interviewed by the CBC last year Autumn they said that she might one day be a chief, and here she is only 14 and a chief.”

A couple of months ago, Autumn was named one of the 100 most influential people in climate policy for 2019 by Apolitical–a peer to peer learning platform for governments. She was shortlisted for the International Youth Peace Prize last year and is on the shortlist for the award again this year. Autumn was also honoured as one of the Ontario Community Newspaper Association Ontario Junior Citizen of the Year.

Autumn already has an eye on a future career. “I want to be a human rights lawyer,” she said. Given the drive and determination she has shown so far there is little doubt she will attain whatever goal she sets her sights on.